The struggle of those who survive brutalities is often overlooked more so when the struggle is not physically manifested or in the direct vision of onlookers. Over 66 years of conflict in Kashmir has resulted in widespread psychiatric trauma and the women of the Valley continue to bear the brunt of this burden.
Indian forces have committed over 10,000 counts of rape with impunity. In addition, over 8,000 Kashmiri men have been subject to enforced disappearances leaving Kashmir with generations of half-widows.
Research into rural and urban communities has suggested that the Valley may be home to some of world’s highest rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of what is termed a “low-intensity conflict”. A 2009 survey suggested that over half of the Kashmiri population suffers from some form of depression, a statistic which was much higher in rural areas. In these far flung parts the prevalence of mental trauma was 93% higher in women, than men.
The alarmingly high rates of psychological morbidity amongst the women of Kashmir can be explained by the brutal tools of an ongoing occupation. Indian forces have committed over 10,000 counts of rape with impunity. In addition, over 8,000 Kashmiri men have been subject to enforced disappearances leaving Kashmir with generations of half-widows. These women face an uncertain future and a harrowing search for answers. A MSF report from 2006 titled “Conflict and Health” revealed that psychological trauma was a direct effect of the violence witnessed by women; the powerlessness they experience following violations of their basic human rights and the continued denial of justice.
Besides this the cultural stigmas surrounding those who suffer the fate of a half-widow and the victims of rape increase the intensity of the psychological distress these women bear.
A report released by Dr. Arif Maghrabi a psychiatrist in Srinagar shows that when treating psychiatric diseases the doctor to patient ratio is merely 1 to 100,000. This greatly reduces the accessibility to treatment and the capacity of medics in the region to sufficiently alleviate the suffering. It voices a demand for the needs of the majority to be met.
The women of Kashmir not only deserve their struggles to receive legitimate recognition but also the practical support necessary to aid the process of recovery. However, we must not forget that this is not simply a question of serving the survivors of conflict but rather one of ensuring an end to the cycle of injustice.
The paths to healing are many but when will we collectively chose to embark upon them?